Identifying Simon the Leper

Here is a sample of my current work on restoring the original version of the Gospel of John:

Simon the Leper, aka Simon the Pharisee, appears by name in Mark and Luke in the scene where Mary Magdalene washes Jesus’s feet with her tears. By implication, he’s in the Gospel of John too.

He’s often identified with Simon ben Gamaliel, son of the famous Talmudic rabbi Gamaliel, but I don’t buy that, because the latter said a man with leprosy was bound to divorce his wife – not something a leper would say!

But another Simon, Simon ben Nathanael, not as well known, married a daughter of Gamaliel, and so was Simon ben Gamaliel’s brother-in-law. He only sought a rabbinical education out of respect for his wife’s family and, since he did not accept the Pharisaic purity rules, he was required in the marriage contract not to interfere with his wife’s observance of those rules. There is no record stating whether this Simon had leprosy, but his rejection of the purity rules would be quite understandable on the part of a rabbi with leprosy.

Certainly such a man, affluent capitalist turned rabbi, would be more interested in the ostentation of social position than the private piety of a truly devoted religious scholar. And certainly such a man would be quite likely to reject a daughter who had served as a Samaritan temple priestess (Mary Magdalene, whom I conclude after analyses of the texts is the “Woman at the Well”), even after she had sought spiritual remission in the baptism of John (she is apparently present when Jesus is baptized by John), and to reject her husband, Jesus, whom she had married without her father’s permission, and his pretensions of being recognized as Messiah.

I’m also convinced that he’s Simon Iskariot, father of Judas (John 13:26); “Iskariot” (ισκαριωτης) may in fact be a Greek garbling of the Hebrew word צרעת, which means “leprosy”, and was pronounced in the Romanized Tiberian Hebrew of the time as ṣāraʻaṯ; the cognomen could easily have been Ish-ṣāraʻaṯ (man with leprosy), which could have picked up a “k” when transitioning into Greek to make it sound more natural in Greek-attuned ears – just as  “Alphaeus” became “Clopas” when transitioning from Aramaic to Greek (John 19:25).

t is also highly likely that the well-read author of the original Gospel of John, was reminded by “Iscariot” of another name, “Ikarios”, in the Odyssey. I’ve been documenting how Homer’s masterwork is strongly implied in chapters 13 and 20, but I also think the gospel suggests an analogy between the sisters Mary and Martha and the sisters Penelope and Iphthime in the Odyssey. The brother of the latter sisters, Perileos son of Ikarios, would have sharply brought Judas son of Simon Iscariot (John 13:26) to mind, since both men handed a hero over to the authorities, such that the hero was put on trial, but ultimately for the good. Perileos handed over the heroic Orestes to be tried at the court of the Areopagus.

Thus, Judas, Mary, and Martha appear to be siblings, which would explain why Judas is there in the house of the sisters (12:1-8) and bickering with Mary.

James David Audlin (91 Posts)

Born in the Thousand Islands. Retired; after decades as a pastor, newspaper editor, university professor, caregiver, musician, editor. Most recently lived in southern France; now lives in rural mountainous Panama; married to a Spanish-speaking local lady. Two children in Vermont. Author of 18+ books, with a dozen more on the way.


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